Making a Difference: Three Cups of Tea

Reflecting upon the dreams of those who came before us and the dreams that we have for our children on the eve of the Presidential Inauguration, I wonder when in our history we took education for granted. As a social studies teacher, my students were always amazed to learn that education wasn't always mandatory. That children would often work in very dangerous conditions to help to support their families. That education was something that people strove to achieve - not something that was expected.

Today, we argue about whether we are preparing our students adequately for the world they will enter when they leave school. Since their inception with compulsory education, schools in the United States have operated under a factory model. We have bells, we have a set curriculum, we churn out graduates like Model T cars. Only we don't, do we?

I am not sure that I have the answer for education - in fact, I am pretty sure that I do not. But after reading Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace...One School at a Time I have been thinking very differently about education. Throughout the book, which chronicled Greg Mortenson's struggles to build schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan against the backdrop of the internal and external conflicts of those countries, Mortenson talks about the power of education to bring peace. The communities where Mortenson built schools worked together to see them constructed - often carrying materials on their backs to the remote areas where the schools would be built. They challenged traditional and religious norms to allow their daughters to attend school. Those schools brought the world to remote villages, for all the good and bad that entails. It brought new perspectives and new opportunities.

We have plenty of schools in this country - but we don't have the passion for them to exist that is described in Mortenson's book. I am struggling with why.

Photo credit: Lewis W. Hine. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

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